The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas Barely Rouses Himself During Vic Concert

A woman in the crowd at The Vic Theatre this past Tuesday night yelled to the man shambling about on stage: “Can’t wait to see you at Lollapalooza!” Julian Casablancas mumbled back something incomprehensible…

 

We think he’s saving his strength for Lollapalooza in August.

The Strokes, one of the bands that will headline Lollapalooza 2010 in Chicago's Grant Park
Julian Casablancas (third from left) with the rest of The Strokes, coming to Chicago in August.

MUSIC A woman in the crowd at The Vic Theatre this past Tuesday night yelled to the man shambling about on stage: “Can’t wait to see you at Lollapalooza!” Julian Casablancas mumbled back something incomprehensible. Such is the magnetism of the lead singer of The Strokes, the New York City band credited for rousing the rock mainstream from the doldrums ten years ago. Casablancas, 31, played a blasé hour-long solo show at The Vic that concentrated mostly on his new album, Phrazes For the Young.

The show illustrated what that new album lacks: a cohesive band dynamic that compliments the singer’s naturally languorous vocal talents. The Strokes were known for their economy and precision—songs on the attack that, with Casablancas crooning on top, created an exciting tension. His solo album, plus accompanying show, indulged his meandering side and allowed him to hide his voice behinds beds of synthesizers and guitars. (For more about the show, read my review for the Chicago Sun-Times.)

What his show ultimately did was summon a hunger for his day-job band, which has not released a new album in four years but is rumored to working on one for release this fall. The band is one of several major acts headlining Lollapalooza in Grant Park this August; other headliners include Lady Gaga, Soundgarden, MGMT, Arcade Fire, Phoenix and many, many others.

When Casablancas sings under summer skies, he’ll be backed by his usual band mates, known for bettering his hobo energy with whip-smart playing. Not exactly what concertgoers experienced at The Vic this week—but when he brought out the Strokes oldie “Hard to Explain,” it was a good taste of things to come.
  

GO: Aug 6-8. $215 (general admission three-day pass). In Grant Park. lollapalooza.com

WHAT CRITICS ARE SAYING ABOUT CASABLANCAS’S SOLO ALBUM 
  • Rolling Stone’s capsule review by Jon Dolan, 11/2/2009:
    “A few songs have the old leather-jacket kick, but things get weirder as he explores alienation from a Lower East Side he once ruled. [THREE STARS OUT OF FIVE]”
  • The Pitchfork album review by Ryan Dombal, 11/5/2009:
    Phrazes for the Young is a jumble of contradictions. The music and artwork is steeped in 1970s and 1980s tropes yet also vaguely futuristic. The words are apocalyptic, depressing, and sometimes worthy of a zen self-help manual, and while there are only eight songs, this thing seems to go on forever. [5.5 OUT OF 10]”
  • The Baltimore Sun’s concert review by Sam Sessa, 3/29/2010:
    “We get it, Julian. You’re 31 and you’re not Billy Joel, so fans shouldn’t expect you to kick out the old jams exclusively. By all means, don’t rest solely on your laurels. Play the new album.”

 

Photographs: Frank Ockenfels 3

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